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News release from: 16/02/2024

Groundbreaking Environmental Legislation to Bolster Biodiversity

Groundbreaking Environmental Legislation to Bolster Biodiversity

Greater Cambridge Shared Planning has taken proactive measures in anticipation of significant new environmental legislation which has just come into effect.

The new environmental legislation that will safeguard and enhance biodiversity related to planning and development activities is being introduced by the UK Government.

Greater Cambridge Shared Planning is a partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils.

The importance of biodiversity and our natural environment are steadily emerging as central topics in environmental discussions, mirroring the heightened awareness surrounding carbon emissions. There is a growing consensus among residents and policy makers on the critical need to protect and enrich our natural habitats.

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is a pivotal component of the 2021 Environment Act, which allowed a two-year transition before coming into law. 

It will become mandatory for major developments starting from 12 February 2024, followed by its application to small sites from 2 April 2024 (defined as sites with between 1 and 9 dwellings). These measures represent a significant stride towards fostering a more sustainable and biodiverse environment for future generations.

Under the new regulations, developers will be required to demonstrate a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain above the baseline lost due to their developments. Strict guidelines have been established to ensure accurate submission and verification of evidence. Developers found to provide incorrect data on existing biodiversity could face fines of up to £5,000.

This legislation marks a monumental step toward protecting and enhancing the natural environment, with Greater Cambridge Shared Planning taking centre stage to drive positive outcomes for biodiversity in our area.

Alarming statistics reveal that the UK has witnessed a staggering 60% decline in biodiversity over the past five decades, according to the Environment Bank. This loss has not only impacted humans but has also led to habitat degradation and a decline in animal populations.

Cambridgeshire faces challenges with its historically low amount of land dedicated to nature, primarily dominated by monoculture arable farming, which has resulted in poor biodiversity levels.

Greater Cambridge Shared Planning has taken proactive measures in anticipation of this new legislation, including rewriting local guidance on biodiversity, expanding our Ecology Team, and working with neighbouring councils.  

Cllr Dr. Tumi Hawkins, Lead Cabinet Member for Planning at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said:

“Our goal in Greater Cambridge is to build quality places, rich in biodiversity and green infrastructure, good for people and good for nature. It is why we adopted the Doubling Nature strategy to enable us focus attention on enabling nature to thrive in this growing dynamic region. This strategy means we can protect existing sites and create new habitats through our emerging local plan.

This legislation is crucial in helping us achieve our goal as it ensures that every new development must make a significant contribution to the preservation and enhancement of biodiversity, helping to protect and improve habitats within Greater Cambridge for years to come."

Cllr Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning, Building Control and Infrastructure at Cambridge City Council, said: “The loss of biodiversity is a major challenge facing the world, whether it is caused by climate change or by direct human activity such as development. It is not enough to protect what we have - we also need to enhance biodiversity wherever we can, both in terms of the amount of land managed specifically for nature, and the quality and richness of our urban and rural environments.

“I welcome the new legislation and the increase in required biodiversity net gain, as it will help Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service as we work with our customers by setting clear benchmarks and standards. 

“We already offer pre-planning advice specifically about biodiversity net gain as well as publications that highlight our ambitions and provide clear guidance on policy as it is updated and will continue to help all our customers as we support wider council policies around the biodiversity and climate emergencies.”